This article is here to help bring attention to some facts surrounding cardio vs. strength training and hopefully motivate you to add strength training to your regular workout routine. First, let’s define what is cardio and what is strength training:
Cardio is any exercise or movement that focuses on elevating the heart rate by moving the body with activity such as power walking, running, bike riding, as well as stationary body weight exercises like jumping rope or running in place.
Strength training is any exercise that uses either your own body weight , added weights or resistance bands to create non-impact tension in muscles.
Squats, deadlifts, pushups, bicep curls, triceps extensions are some examples of strength training . While it is possible to maintain some muscle mass while doing cardio exercises such as running or riding a bike, you will get the most benefit of retaining muscle mass, bone mass, and joint support through strength training also known as resistance training or anerobic exercise.
Aerobic cardio exercise does play an essential role in our health.
It prevents heart disease, stroke, helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels all of which increase your lifespan and improve cognitive performance as well as help your brain mange emotions and maintain positive mental health. It does burn calories and is a useful tool in maintaining a healthy body weight and composition. With that being said, it is important to point out that strength training is vital to our fitness and physical body and it is essential for retaining muscle mass which decreases by a rate of 3-5% per decade as we age. If your fitness regimen consists only of cardio exercises, you will be missing out on the many essential benefits of strength training.
Muscle atrophy can begin at the age of 25. The definition of muscle atrophy is the wasting, thinning or loss of muscle tissue. Strength training also maintains and increases bone density.
Women begin to lose bone density at a rate of 1% per year after the age of 40 and many women can lose up to 20% of their bone density during the five to seven years following menopause.
Strength training in particular has benefits for our muscles and bones beyond those offered by aerobic exercise. In addition, strength training supports joint health and can help reduce the risk of injury.
How often should you incorporate strength training into your fitness routine?
Research says that you should be strength training at the minimum two days per week. It is recommended to do some type of resistance training three days per week for at least 20-30 minutes to experience the benefits. It is also essential to give yourself at least one solid rest day per week to allow muscle tissue to rebuild and repair. This is because when we train our muscles to fatigue, we are actually creating tiny tears in the muscle tissue which need time to repair and rebuild. Without adequate rest, the muscles will not repair properly which can lead to overuse or injury. You can still take a long walk, do foam rolling, massage, or stretching on your rest days.
What are examples of a resistance training workout besides just lifting weights?
Body weight exercises such as squats, pushups, lunges, etc. are excellent ways to strength train if you do not have access to weight equipment. Using an elevated surface such as a box, block or even steps in your home can help increase the resistance of these exercises without the need for equipment. You can elevate your pushups or modify using a step or box, you can elevate your back leg in a lunge to increase the intensity or use an elevated surface to step up on. Yoga is also an example of a resistance or strength training workout we don’t traditionally think of as such. Yoga is generally a series of holds and movements that use resistance of the ground to strengthen muscles while using the breath to connect with the movement. In addition, Barre is a form of resistance training. Barre is non-impact, non-aerobic exercise that you will discover to be a very challenging way to train and strengthen your muscles using your own body weight, resistance bands and lighter weights than typical strength training.
The bottom line is yes cardio aerobic exercise can be beneficial for you, but if you’re looking to maintain and improve your body’s overall health and wellness, improve the health of your body composition, bone density, joint mobility and flexibility as well as increasing your metabolism, be sure to compliment it with regular resistance or strength training workouts in your fitness plan at least 2-3 days per week.